Displaying items by tag: Asia
At least 33 people have died in the ‘heaviest rainfall in a millennium’ in central China. The torrential floods paralysed several cities, causing millions of pounds in damage. Vast swathes of Zhengzhou city are under several feet of water. Cars float down streets and 200,000 people fled flooding in Henan province, home to China’s agricultural industry. The subway flooded, trapping passengers inside carriages as water levels rose. Platforms were submerged and commuters clung to railings to keep their heads above the fast-flowing deluge as air was running out. Train services across the province have been suspended, highways remain closed, and flights cancelled. At least two dams in Inner Mongolia have collapsed. Other dams that enclose China’s reservoirs are threatening to fail. Rescue workers are evacuating residents from Hefei, and a hospital with 7,000+ beds lost power, with staff racing to relocate hundreds of critically ill patients. More rain is expected in the coming days.
The director of the Olympics opening ceremony was dismissed for making jokes in the 1990s about the Holocaust. Earlier this week, a composer quit the ceremony team after it emerged he had bullied classmates with disabilities at school. In March the Olympics' creative chief quit after suggesting that plus-size comedian Naomi Watanabe could appear as an ‘Olympig’. In February the head of the organising committee had to step down after he made inappropriate remarks about women. The scandals have increased massive unease about the Games. A recent poll found 55% of Japanese were opposed to holding the Games, fearing it could become a coronavirus super-spreader event. Already, organisers are dealing with rising Covid cases. Dozens involved in the Games, including officials and athletes, have tested positive. An increase in cases among Japan's population - only a third of whom have been vaccinated - has led to a state of emergency being declared for the duration of the Games.
Praise God for an operation this week that brought a young family, including four children, out of bonded labour. One of IJM’s partners discovered an 11-year-old forced to work at a sheep farm and then, by interviewing him, learned that the whole family was in bondage at a nearby brick kiln. Many families like theirs are being left vulnerable due to Covid-19 and a lack of dignified work.
Mecca: the holiest city in Islam, reputedly the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad and the destination for Muslims on the sacred hajj pilgrimage. This year, the hajj is from 17 to 22 July. Although the pilgrimage has Covid limitations, Mecca is still preparing for 60,000 pilgrims. The city of Mecca has 1.5 million residents. You have to be a Muslim to get in the city limits. Entering Mecca as a non-Muslim could result in fines, deportation, or worse. How could anyone there hear the Good News that they have a Saviour who loves them? How could the Gospel possibly reach such a closed city? The Holy Spirit and prayer are not limited by borders or bans.
As all eyes turn to Tokyo for the Olympics and Paralympics, Japanese Christians are inviting the global Church to unite for one million hours of prayer for the spiritual transformation of their nation. An international prayer movement (Japan1Million) is led by the Japan international Sports Partnership and the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association. Their partnership is driven by a vision to see the Church in Japan grow to ten million people by 2024. Working towards that vision, they had hoped to reach a million Japanese people during their Olympic outreach year. Covid closed those doors, but one door remained open; the door to prayer. With less than 1% of its population of 126 million attending church, the Japanese are the world’s second largest unreached people group. Most people in Japan have not been to church, read the Bible or encountered any Christians. Committed prayer is needed for a significant spiritual breakthrough.
Recently three Baptist pastors from Kachin state were detained and charged with organising prayers for peace. The pastors are now facing three years in jail because of a penal code which criminalises causing fear, spreading false news, and agitating for criminal offenses against government employees. They were praying that the fighting between the Burmese military and the pro-democracy forces in Kachin state, which has intensified recently, would cease. It is reported that the pastors, who are elderly and in poor health, were sent to a prison on 29 June to await their court hearing on 12 July. Their imprisonment was met with an outcry from Christians in the country. Many are using social media to publish prayers and pleas for their release. Other church attacks and arrests have occurred elsewhere throughout the country.
China Aid, which provides legal aid to Christians in China, recently tweeted, ‘New Cultural Revolution starts. Government tells students’ parents and teachers to hunt all religious books, antagonistic books and overseas books. Everyone is mandated!’ CBN News said the communist government does not want any disruptions for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. ‘They really fear there could be protests, a pro-democracy movement going, leading up to and during the Olympics. So this sends a message to the parents: “Look, no outside influence. We don't want any collusion with foreigners here”, because they know that foreigners are pro-democracy. They are indoctrinating students, and also sending a message to the adults.’ Pray for the world to recognise false religion when they see communist party flags in pulpits.
The USA is resuming unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians without any stipulation that the PA end human rights violations and assaults on public freedoms. Lawyers for Justice said that the forms of torture in the PA-controlled Jericho Prison included hanging detainees from the ceilings, beatings, verbal abuse and electric shocks. ‘The Future List calls on all electoral lists approved by the Central Elections Committee, all human rights bodies and all honourable people of this country to form a united front to confront the arbitrary political arrests that aim to silence every free voice that rises in the face of tyranny and corruption practiced by the Palestinian Authority.’ It appears the diplomats care little that the PA is arresting, torturing and intimidating social media users and political activists. Western journalists loudly raise their voices when damning Israel. International silence and absolute support for the PA encourages Palestinian leadership to continue their repression.
Afghanistan and its neighbours have spent decades relying on the US and NATO to resolve the country's problems. Wikipedia reports there are up to 18,000 Afghan Christians (3,300 from a Muslim background) practising their faith secretly in the country. Displacement and suffering experienced by those forced to flee their homes and communities is not new for the brave people of this land. Escalating conflict recently has resulted in thousands of new displaced people being registered each week. Around 327,000 people were displaced in 2020, 80% of them women and children. Now that foreign troops are almost gone, security and peace are going with them. The Russians and Chinese fear the further destabilisation of Afghanistan by the Taliban will spill over to five neighbouring Central Asian countries which have their own history of jihadist violence.
On 6 July Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was enriching uranium to 20% at its research reactor. Uranium metal is used to make a nuclear warhead core. The development immediately prompted Berlin, London and Paris, which are all parties to the 2015 nuclear deal - along with the USA, Russia, and China - to issue a damning joint statement accusing Iran of a ‘grave breach’ of its obligations. ‘Iran has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon,’ the statement said. According to Iran’s foreign minister, this enrichment is needed for ‘peaceful, medicinal and humanitarian uses.’ The three countries urged Tehran to stop the violations and return to Vienna’s negotiating table where the original signatories to the deal have been working for months to mediate indirect talks between Iran and the USA.